It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and many Utah theatre makers have found other ways to touch an audience at a safe and social distance—and many of the plays which have been created and produced in this unprecedented time are new.
Back in late March, Plan-B Theatre Company was starting tech for the final show on its 2019-20 season—The Audacity, a one-woman show written by Guild member JENIFER NII. But before the show could go up, Salt Lake City began to shut down. Artistic director Jerry Rapier and the show’s staff made a quick and daring decision: instead of teching in preparation to open, they prepared to film it. On what would have been its opening night, The Audacity premiered online via Vimeo. In the months since, Plan-B’s monthly Playwright Lab meetings have taken place over Zoom, and the company has commissioned short radio plays which can be heard on their free smartphone app. They have also commissioned short plays from their Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop that can be performed at home as part of the #playathome project. Plan-B’s entire 2020-21 season of new work has transitioned from in-person performances to on-app audio drama.
Further north, Ogden’s Good Company Theatre took “window shopping” to a new level. Their series of one-person shows, Window Seat Sessions, were written and performed by local artists in an actual window space. An audience of five—all masked—viewed each performance on the far side of the glass.
Sonder Immersive is a new company that strives to create interactive and immersive theatre experiences. Over the summer, they put a spin on Romeo and Juliet, revising the familiar tale as Through Yonder Window; the play was staged in a parking garage so that audience members could experience the show from the socially distant comfort of their cars. Sonder Immersive is planning another innovative production for October; in The Carousel, small, staggered audiences travel through a maze-like “dreamscape” set in an art gallery.
An Other Theater Company is another new group that has literally sprung up in a mall storefront. Recognizing the important conversations that we all need to be having around race and representation in the theatre, AOTC is starting a panel series to have those very discussions online, thanks to Zoom and YouTube.
Sackerson is a company that has built itself on the fascinating combination of new work, unconventional spaces and bold audiences. They’ve just announced auditions for a new play by Guild member MORAG SHEPHERD, Cherry Wine in Paper Cups, that will be performed in a site-specific, outdoor location for a socially distant audience in the golden evenings of early fall.
For the past several years, high summer in Salt Lake City has signaled the start of the Great Salt Lake Fringe. Many of us expected that the Fringe would be canceled. But instead, the festival went online, using Zoom to bring new and intriguing content to the homes of Fringers both in and out of the state.